Eric Engdahl moved to Kenya, from New York, three years ago to take an architecture job. Within three months, having identified a gap in the market, he left to start what would become Unity Makers, a furniture-making company. “I saw a huge a niche in the market, [a] huge opportunity to do contemporary furniture. There was obviously a huge demand for it.”
Within a few months Eric started to make prototypes with a fundi called Simidi Kedenge, who he met through an interior design contact. Eric had initially planned to outsource manufacturing to larger workshops but found that they “didn’t care” enough about his nascent enterprise for it to work. In Simidi’s workshop in Kawangware, they worked together to make prototypes. In December 2013, having set up a website, they received an order and started work on their first project. Simidi is now the Unity Makers foreman, and one of the 14 people that make up the Unity Makers team.
One of the first pieces Unity Makers made was the Forest Coffee Table, which was based on a project Eric did while studying architecture at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. The brief was to “create a structurally sound thing out of something that didn’t look structurally sound at all”. Eric created a model with two pieces of paper and toothpicks, which passed the test – being able to hold a brick.
The MOFTI Dining Table, pictured above, is a slightly stripped down version of this design, but the principle is the same – lots of angles in different directions that are structurally sound. People often show an interest in this design but find it difficult to picture it in their home often opting for the more pared down Intersect Dining Table, one of Unity Makers’ most popular pieces.
Unity Makers have only made two MOFTI Dining Tables so far. One for the MOFTI store at New Muthaiga Mall on Thigiri Ridge and the other for a family that was leaving Kenya for France and wanted something with a “Kenyan flair” to take with them.
Photograph courtesy of Unity Makers.